The Feds and Gun Buy Backs: Are They Effective? What is the Harm?


Gun Buy Backs Spark Controversy What's the harm? Political rhetoric and the facts. (

There are 1.2 guns for every person in the United States, with the total number of firearms in circulation estimated to be over 393 million (Small Arms Survey). Gun violence is the
leading cause of death among young men ages 15 to 19, and firearms are involved in 51 percent of completed suicides and 73 percent of all homicides. Alamogordo, New Mexico has seen a spike in violence and murders among youth and young adults in 2023. The increase in crime year over year in Alamogordo, New Mexico is 70%. That is a micro spike in comparison to the spike in crimes throughout the state and in rural communities throughout the U.S. in recent years.

The link between the supply of firearms and gun violence has been the subject of intense debate,
both among policymakers and in the economics of crime literature.

In an effort to limit the supply of firearms in circulation, a number of U.S. cities have implemented gun buyback programs (GBPs). GBPs use public funds to purchase civilians’ privately-owned firearms. The first GBP was launched in Baltimore, Maryland in 1974, when the city paid anyone who turned in a firearm to a local police station $50 ($259 in 2019 dollars), after which the gun was destroyed. There were no questions asked of those who turned in their guns and no limits were placed on the type of firearm that could be submitted to authorities. 

In total, that GBP collected approximately 13,500 firearms, 8,400 of which were handguns, and cost taxpayers approximately $660,00. Reports suggested that firearms were turned in by individuals who were “afraid someone would use [the firearm] in anger” or feared their firearms “would be stolen”

However, homicides and firearm related assaults continued at high rates following the Baltimore GBP, raising concerns among policymakers about its effectiveness.

However, there is growing evidence that limiting access to firearms reduces gun violence, both among adults and minors thus a rise in multiple approaches to reduce the number of firearms in the public's hands by multiple voluntary programs. Constitutional questions arise with every limitation enacted.

More recently and closer to home the New Mexico Attorney General's office has issued an advisory that gun buyback programs that take weapons out of circulation in New Mexico are legal affirming a stance by the organization New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence.

New Mexico District 51 Representative John Block since 2000, has paraded around the state and written on his propaganda blog asserting the gun buyback programs are illegal.

State Rep. John Block (R-Alamogordo) wrote to NMPVG, “Just so you understand, the passing of the firearm from one party (them) to another (you) = a TRANSFER!”

In a tit for tat in social media Rep Lord and Rep Block asserted that the group was violating the law.

New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence argued, “There was no transfer of firearms? Dismantling a gun onsite is not a transfer.”

Countering the assertion by Rep John Block and questions raised by law enforcement and Rep Lord; Chief Deputy Attorney General James Grayson explained in a letter to San Juan County District Attorney Rick Tedrow and released to the public that gun buy-back events conducted by nonprofit organizations in partnership with law enforcement agencies do not violate a provision of a 2019 state law requiring that a federal instant background check be conducted prior to the sale of a firearm, except in certain circumstances.

This tit for tat leads to more questions. What is the stance of the Federal Government in relation to Gun Buy Backs? Are they effective? What is the harm and why would NM Rep. John Block and others care one way or another about Gun Buy Back Programs?

What is the stance of the Federal Government in relation to Gun Buy Backs? 

The Federal Government in the United States does not have a uniform stance on gun buybacks. The approach to gun buybacks varies across different administrations, political parties, and individual lawmakers. 

Historical Context

Gun buyback programs have been implemented at the state and local levels, but there is no consistent nationwide policy.

The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act included provisions for a federal assault weapons ban, but it did not specifically address gun buybacks.

Some cities and states have conducted successful gun buyback events to encourage voluntary surrender of firearms.

Political Perspectives:

Supporters of gun buybacks argue that they can help reduce the number of firearms in circulation, especially unwanted or unused guns.

Critics argue that gun buybacks are often ineffective in preventing crime, as they primarily attract law-abiding citizens who voluntarily turn in their firearms. Criminals are less likely to participate.

Second Amendment Advocates emphasize the right to bear arms and may view gun buybacks as an infringement on individual rights.

Federal Funding

While there is no ongoing federal gun buyback program, some federal funding has been allocated to support state and local initiatives.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) provides grants to law enforcement agencies for various purposes, including firearm safety and buyback programs.

State and Local Initiatives:

States and cities have the authority to implement their own gun buyback programs.

Public Opinion and Debate:

These programs are often organized by local law enforcement agencies, community groups, or nonprofits. The success of these initiatives depends on community participation and public awareness. Gun buybacks remain a topic of debate, with varying opinions on their effectiveness. Policymakers continue to discuss ways to address gun violence, including voluntary buybacks.

Are Gun Buy Backs effective?

Gun buyback programs have been a topic of debate, and their effectiveness varies depending on the context and goals. Here are some points to consider:

Reducing the Number of Guns: Gun buybacks aim to remove firearms from circulation by offering incentives (usually monetary) for people to turn in their guns. While they can lead to the collection of some firearms, the overall impact on reducing the total number of guns in a community may be limited. This is because the number of guns in private ownership is vast, and buybacks typically collect only a fraction of them.

Public Safety and Crime Reduction: Supporters argue that buybacks contribute to public safety by taking unwanted or unused guns out of homes. By reducing the availability of firearms, they may potentially lower the risk of accidental shootings, suicides, and stolen guns being used in crimes.

Symbolic and Awareness: Gun buybacks serve as a symbolic gesture to raise awareness about gun violence and promote responsible gun ownership. They can also create opportunities for community engagement and education on safe storage practices.

    What is the harm and why would NM Rep. John Block and others care one way or another about Gun Buy Back Programs?

    There simply is no harm. First Amendment advocates such as Rep John Block claim that they are simply an exercise in trying to take guns out of the hands of citizens. That is a completely bogus criticism with absolutely no truth to it. These programs are purely voluntary programs. That argument is purely political with no facts to support it. That rhetoric is simply untrue and meant to rally the far-right base to political action.

    A more practical argument by legitimate sources within the debate of gun buy backs argue that plainly are not effective, cost too much and that the funds from such programs could be better utilized for more effective programs such as providing safety locks and education.

    Legitimate concerns are raised concerning the resources to execute buyback programs. The arguments are funds allocated for gun buybacks could be used for other more effective violence prevention strategies. If the goal is to reduce gun violence, investing in mental health services, community-based programs, and law enforcement efforts might yield better results.

    Symbolic Impact vs. Tangible Results: Buybacks are often seen as a symbolic gesture rather than a comprehensive solution. While they raise awareness, the actual impact on reducing crime rates may be limited. Critics argue that the guns turned in are often old, malfunctioning, or rarely used for criminal purposes.

      Distraction from Root Causes: Focusing solely on buybacks may divert attention from addressing the root causes of gun violence, such as poverty, substance abuse, and mental health issues. A holistic approach is necessary to tackle these underlying factors. 

      Limited Impact on Criminal Supply: The majority of guns used in crimes are obtained through illegal channels (e.g., straw purchases, theft). Buybacks do not directly address this criminal supply chain.

      Criticisms have done little to diminish enthusiasm for buybacks. In a 2020 study faciltated by Carpenter, Borrup, and Campbell it is estimated that at least 550-gun buybacks occurred in 37 states between 1988 and 2021, and a working paper (Ferrazares, Sabia, and Anderson) identified seven buyback events in two months of 2021. Some of these buybacks are held annually.

        A recent surge in city gun buyback programs has raised hopes that such efforts can curb gun violence in the United States. 

        In New Mexico nonprofit organizations such as the New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence have taken a multi-pronged approach while still garnering criticism by 14th Amendment alleged purists. NMPGV Public Safety program includes public outreach, free gun lock distribution, gun safety radio PSA’s and bus ads. They claim they give out 1000’s of gun safety locks through CYFD, Juvenile Probation Offices, Health Councils, Schools, law enforcement agencies, and medical facilities. 

        Their theory is that by utilizing public outreach, they have observed a shift in people’s attitudes towards gun subcultures. Public outreach is an opportunity to redirect the conversation by effectively engaging with a wide variety of audiences. They claim they are not about banning guns but keeping them out of the hands of youth and they are attempting that by developing a wide range of relationships and partnerships with schools and school boards, youth groups such Boys and Girls Clubs, law enforcement, city councils, inner faith communities, political groups and clubs such as Kiwanis or Rotary and even gun sellers. 

        The violence in Alamogordo, New Mexico and throughout the nation is an issue that needs attention and cool heads need to debate a variety of options to bring the temperate of violence down. False narratives by the political leaders such as Block and Lord, that enrage their base don't help in solving the issue. Gun Buybacks may not be the solution, but a solution exists by education and civil dialog by all parties impacted which is all of the public and its diverse constituencies.

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